Truly smart buildings don’t rely on Wi-Fi alone.


The opportunity

Creating smart buildings.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) and high-speed, broadband networks converge, smart buildings that do everything from automatically controlling temperature and lighting to alerting security if there is something amiss are quickly becoming more than just a good idea. Enabled by the digital revolution, smart buildings promise a host of benefits for communities, enterprises, and individuals.

However, making them smart requires a working knowledge of the technologies that make “smart” possible. 

By all indications, the move to smart facilities is on the rise and will likely accelerate over the coming months and years.

“I’ve seen firsthand the growing need for smart buildings, and the way that building occupants are driving the need for connectivity, productivity, and last but not least, public safety.”

-Luke Lucas, Senior Manager of Engineering Business Development at T-Mobile

Creating smart buildings, venues, campuses, and other properties is the first step toward creating future smart cities, Lucas says, and the infrastructure that’s required will make life easier for all concerned—business and residential stakeholders alike.

In order to get there, however, real estate operators, building owners and managers, government officials, and executives responsible for creating smart entities need to take a good look at the existing infrastructure of their facilities to determine what they need to make sure their facilities will be truly smart. To realize today’s conservation, efficiency, and connectivity potential, Wi-Fi simply always isn’t enough.

“All of these objectives require high bandwidth and low latency. Cellular is the technology that’s going to be able to provide that,” says Lucas.

A cellular solution

Why Wi-Fi isn't always enough.

While many commercial building owners and operators today deploy wireless Wi-Fi infrastructure inside their facilities, their network services are incomplete without cellular coverage. Cellular can be faster, more reliable, more secure, and more comprehensive than just having Wi-Fi alone, according to Lucas.

One challenge is that Wi-Fi devices must be close to an access point, and there can be problems with traffic congestion and interference. And as good as Wi-Fi speeds might be, they are dependent on the fiber network that is serving the building. There can be bottlenecks if these networks aren’t configured correctly. Furthermore, commercial-grade fiber is costly and connections are sometimes limited.

Perhaps the biggest concern about depending too much on Wi-Fi is that the technology can be an easy target for security threats. It’s well known that Wi-Fi can be vulnerable to intruders, Lucas says.

For the development of smart buildings, when cellular and Wi-Fi are compared, cellular clearly rises to the top. That’s why it needs to be the key part of the wireless plan when building owners and operators begin investing in infrastructure for their smart buildings. And this is something they need to balance with the ongoing effort to make buildings more environmentally friendly.

“Unfortunately, new energy-efficient buildings that are great in conserving resources like power and water are absolutely terrible for general connectivity….in some ways, buildings are almost too good at keeping the outside signal outside,” says Lucas. Green buildings that are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified are usually bad at bringing signals in, he says.

The next steps

Implementing your own in-building cellular coverage.

Implementing in-building cellular may seem like a huge undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be.

T-Mobile’s Build Your Own Coverage program helps educate building owners and enterprises on how to optimize their on-site connectivity and capacity.

The program is designed to facilitate partnerships between real estate developers, landlords, tenants, property managers or any one who helps manage properties, so they can influence the inclusion of wireless technology into a master plan for their properties. A crucial component of those plans that should be considered in all connected buildings is cellular.

“Today, onsite cellular is a mandatory requirement, not just a nice to have.”

-Luke Lucas, Senior Manager of Engineering Business Development at T-Mobile

Typically, building owners choose a strategic partner to help build the infrastructure and the partner engages with the wireless carrier to provide the signal source for the cellular coverage. In this way, the building owners build their own coverage with help from experts in the field.

T-Mobile for Business works with property owners to bring a high-capacity fiber optic network to the building premises and ensure it’s provisioned properly based on expected traffic demands. Indoor wireless networks create outstanding coverage and capacity in buildings or venues, even when they’re at their peak capacity.

Driven by a need for energy efficiency, lower costs, and the constant connectivity that’s required in the digital age, smart buildings, venues, and campuses are rapidly becoming a fact of life all over the world. Real-estate developers and building operators are charged with making these smart facilities a reality—and cellular is the technology that makes it possible.

To learn more about implementing your own in-building coverage, watch Connected Real Estate Magazine’s “A Truly Smart Building Doesn’t Rely on Wi-Fi Alone” webinar or download A Guide to Building Your Own Coverage.

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